July 20, 2011

Is violating terms of service the legal equivalent of computer hacking and a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act?

Wired "Well-known coder and activist Aaron Swartz was arrested Tuesday, charged with violating federal hacking laws for downloading millions of academic articles from a subscription database service that MIT had given him access to. If convicted, Swartz faces up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine." By Ryan Singel

'Swartz, the 24-year-old executive director of Demand Progress, has a history of downloading massive data sets, both to use in research and to release public domain documents from behind paywalls. Swartz, who was aware of the investigation, turned himself in Tuesday.

'Disclosure: Swartz is a co-founder of Reddit¹, which like Wired.com is owned by Condé Nast. He is also a general friend of Wired.com, and has done coding work for Wired.

'The grand jury indictment accuses Swartz of evading MIT’s attempts to kick his laptop off the network while downloading more than four million documents from JSTOR, a not-for-profit company that provides searchable, digitized copies of academic journals. The scraping, which took place from September 2010 to January 2011 via MIT’s network, was invasive enough to bring down JSTOR’s servers on several occasions.'

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